Patrick's Reviews > The Natural

The Natural by Bernard Malamud
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's review
Jan 25, 2012

really liked it
Read from January 25 to 29, 2012

** spoiler alert ** Much to my disappointment, I did not like the ending as much as I hoped I would. The ending has everyone in the book being screwed over. I will give this book a 4.5 stars.

Besides showcasing the negative aspects of superstardom in which money and fame not fan loyalty rule the superstars, I think the book also showcase the downside of middle class rugged individualism of going it alone without the help of anyone. I enjoy Roy's insatiable hunger for eating as an excellent metaphor for his ambitious lust especially toward Memo and breaking records.

I like how it starts in the teenager Roy is the upstart who pitches to the home run hitter the Whammer and defeats him.

Later when he does make it to the big leagues he is 34 year old man who initially feels old but still has his swing and playing ability that makes him a star. I like his competition with Bump the current obnoxious super star who needs competition that Roy provides to allow him to start playing better.

Malamud foreshadows by his book the selfishness sport stars can be which is to be expected now a days as oppose to the bucolic sacrifice that everyone took for the team back then. In essence, Malamud writes about the corruption fame can bring to a person through being a superstar. Pure ambition fuels Roy and desire to prove his critics wrong.. Like Kobe Bryant although he has the strength of a superstar and elevates everyone else's game, he does not hang around his teammates and prefers to be alone; thus making him seem like a snob. Instead of playing for the love of the game and the fans, Roy plays for himself and does not have any attachment to anyone, especially for the finicky fans. His goal is to break personal records so everyone including Memo would love him.

Memo likes Bump over Roy because she prefers the bon vivant philanderer who surprises everyone over his actions to Roy who is so intensely goal-oriented in his vision to win records at all cost for himself and as a by-product help the team win. Also Memo had a depressing life, so Bump carefree attitude was the perfect antidote for that. Memo dislike for all life's problems and the fact that she was still sleeping with Gus makes her great mistress material for Roy but no more. Roy's lust for Memo is blinding his rational mind from seeing that Memo is not good wife material.

Man really needs a woman who believes in him especially when he is down. I hope I get a woman who reads me like a book and can be sympathetic when I need her to be. Iris is philosophically mature and tries to point out to Roy that the reason that he suffered so much in the past is so he has more clarity of what is most important to him now. Roy being the dense man that he is respond by stating that he will avoid all suffering like the plague and now only wants pleasure out of life. In essence, Roy is telling Iris that his past suffering instructs him to avoid present suffering and direct him toward life's pleasures. Of course as a foreshadowing for present superstardom, Roy discards Iris for not looking good enough and being a "grandma" forgetting her role in getting him out of a slump.

Judge the new majority owner of the team is cheap skate who is more interested in making money rather than helping the baseball team win ball games as can be seen by his various schemes of allowing all sort of performance to be held in his stadium but not paying Roy for performing so well for the team. Although one can be indignant in Judge's righteousness in demanding Roy to fulfill his contract, the fact that Roy is making the team win while making minimum wage also pisses off people because his compensation has no bearing on his value to the team. Judge is also a private-equity type which seeks to downsize the company in order to increase profits for himself. Furthermore, Judge cheapness shows itself as he contracts a maternity ward as the hospital for his injured players.

Gus is a sleazy bookie who cleans up the house and is Memo's sugar daddy.

Roy wants to be a star all by himself "the Natural" and is opposed to others helping him out (like so many superstars of today). Roy wants to be self-producing superstar and does not want handouts. If sport stars are indeed a heroic version of us, then Roy's desire to be a self-producing superstar is nothing more than middle class yearning of being self-sufficient. Fans need a hero in order to bring the best out of themselves. Hero serves the common man in order to bring the best out of themselves.

It is quite a different view of sports in the good old days(pre-free-agency days where money now rules) when fans worshiped the players on their team because they knew that they played for the fans and would always be on their team as oppose to now the fans think of sport players as commodities that need to produce.

Groupy sex occurred even before the advent of contraceptives so what makes opponents of contraceptives think banning them will slow down birth rates or teenage sex.

Superstition really becomes prominent in players when things are not going well.

It is interesting how people are more attractive from a distance but once a person is caught they become less attractive.

I like the moral slippery slope quandary that Malamud portrays Roy to be in when he decides to fix the game because Judge asks him to. Judge basically says there is no right or wrong just circumstances that no one can no the outcome based on ones actions. Roy for his part decides on the fix because he is not healthy anymore and needs the money to buy Memo's affection. Although one understands how Roy got to be the way he is and at times sympathize with his plight of not realizing his full potential until later on in life and having to do odd jobs just to get by and is direly lonely, in the end, one still does not condone the bitterness of his behavior and the actions that that behavior produces. Similarly, although one sympathizes with Memo's poverty stricken life and unluckiness of her situation of life's lot, one does not condone her gold-digger ways of hedging her bets between Roy and Gus.

I enjoy the metaphor of Iris being inadvertently hit with the ball because of his rage toward the dwarf-heckler and his bat splitting in two as signaling his downfall of what was good in him. While Iris represented Roy's hopes and dreams, the bat represents his invincible skill on the mound.

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